Scott McClellan: The beatings continue

Bob Dole whacks the former White House spokesman as "spurred on by greed" while journalists continue to hide from the truth. Plus: Thanks, Bob Somerby.


Joan Walsh
May 31, 2008 2:53PM (UTC)

Former Sen. Bob Dole was renowned for a sense of humor and a mean streak, and he certainly showed the latter in an e-mail to Scott McClellan made public Friday. Dole called McClellan a "miserable creature ... spurred on by greed" and suggested he donate his book proceeds to charity. I know it's mean of me, but it was hard not to wonder what Dole did with the money he earned pitching Viagra some years back. Personally, I'd prefer that former Republican functionaries change the world by telling the truth, however belatedly, rather than pitching an erectile dysfunction drug. Maybe that's just me.

I don't understand the attacks on McClellan as a greedy bastard, even pushed by some liberals like Arianna Huffington. Karl Rove got a $1.5 million advance for almost certainly lying; we know McClellan's advance, from serious publishing house Public Affairs, was under six figures. Yes, he'll do well now that the book is No. 1 on Amazon, but that wasn't a given when he signed his contract, and many big publishing houses passed on his proposal.

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But I continue to be most disappointed by the many journalists who have dismissed McClellan's charge that the media was too compliant in helping the Bush administration sell its phony pretexts for war. How can it be that only Katie Couric and Jessica Yellin have come forward to confirm McClellan's account? (Of course the great Knight-Ridder/McClatchy reporters Warren Strobel and Jonathan Landay, who got the Iraq war story right from the beginning, despite McClellan's spin job, have the best reaction here.) I talk more about this in my Current video this week (text continues below):

Bob Somerby likewise singled out Yellin for praise on Friday in the Daily Howler. It might be immodest to note, but Somerby was also kind enough to say some nice things about me and my performance on "Hardball" last Tuesday (since I read all all 1,509 letters from readers, most of them negative, you'll forgive me for appreciating a little praise). Somerby and I have disagreed on occasion, but I've always valued the way he charted the media's destruction of Vice President Al Gore and other Democrats. He, and I, see many of the same forces at work against Hillary Clinton, and Somerby has devoted this week to a painstaking breakdown of exactly how and why her RFK assassination remark dominated political news for a week. If I didn't convince you something was wrong with the political manipulation of the reaction to Clinton's RFK comment, maybe Somerby can.

Having said that, I want to make clear that I don't believe that everyone who was horrified by Clinton's remark was manipulated by the media or the Obama campaign. The only thing I regret in my debate with Madison is that I didn't make the point that I made in my blog post: Given this nation's tragic history of assassination, and given the fears many people, especially African-Americans, have about Barack Obama's safety, I understand why there is extra sensitivity on this point. I don't believe that sensitivity is what made her remarks a five-day political story. I think that was the result of the Obama campaign lighting a match, and its friends in the media fanning the flames.


Joan Walsh

Joan Walsh is the author of "What's the Matter With White People: Finding Our Way in the Next America."

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